NHL Playoffs Update: Flyers sinking

Nabby.jpgNow we have some movement. Some major shuffling last night in the NHL standings, as Detroit jumps to 6th in the West and the Philadelphia Flyers threaten to fall completely out of the playoff race as their goaltending issues continue to haunt them.

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to hum along, and are keeping pace with the San Jose Sharks who seem to have actually gotten back on track a bit. Amazingly, we also see the Dallas Stars make into the top ten of our standings as they take a peek at the playoff standings from over the fence.

Before we move on to the games that mattered, I’d like to make the quick observation that yesterday’s officiating throughout the NHL was horrid. This is the time of the year when there’s supposed to be good synergy between the referees and the players, as the intensity in every game amps up and with the officials generally allowing teams to play a good game.

Instead, we continue to see special teams contests as the most ticky tack of penalties are called every game.

It’s frustrating. Anyways, onto the playoff standings.


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The games that mattered:

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – The Flyers goaltending situation would be funny if it weren’t so sad. With Jonas Backlund making his NHL debut, the rookie goaltending suffered a groin injury and forced Brian Boucher into the game. After a disallowed goal, the Flyers fell apart and the Penguins scored four unanswered goals.

Boston Bruins 5, Calgary Flames 0 – This was a big, big game for the Bruins and they didn’t disappoint. Perhaps bolstered by Marc Savard’s appearance before the game, it was the most inspired game by Boston in a long time.

Buffalo Sabres 7, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 – Don’t really need to worry about giving up that division lead after all.

Montreal Canadiens 2, New Jersey Devils 4 – Big win for the Devils, to maintain the tie breaker and division win over the Penguins. This is going to be a great race to the finish for the division title. No games remaining between the Pens and Devils the rest of the season, however. What up with that?

Carolina Hurricanes 0, Atlanta Thrashers 4 – I first though Atlanta would overcome the Bruins or Senators, but now it looks like they have a chance to take the Flyers out.

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, NY Rangers 2 – Great comeback win for the Leafs, who suddenly appear confident playing in front of a solid Jonas Gustavsson, who was facing his hero Henrik Lundqvist on the other side of the ice. Lundqvist allowed a soft goal in the final minutes, before Kulemin’s overtime goal won it. At least the Rangers got a point.

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The games that mattered:

San Jose Sharks 4, Vancouver Canucks 2 – The Canucks may rely on home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs to get through, as they are completely incapable of winning on the road. Meanwhile, Joe Thornton’s injury has Sharks fans worried. I have no idea why, though.

Phoenix Coyotes 6, Colorado Avalanche 2 – Lee Stempniak scored — of course he did! — as well as Wojtek Wolski and Derek Morris. I’d say the trade deadline moves by the Coyotes paid off. Meanwhile, they are still right there behind the Sharks for the division lead. Think that final game of the regular season will be big?

Boston Bruins 5, Calgary Flames 0 – One big Calgary facepalm. Again.

Nashville Predators 0, Detroit Red Wings 1 – A double shutout, goaltending battle? An 11-round shootout? Yes please! Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard gets better every game.

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    Report: Potential Shattenkirk trade fell apart over contract talks

    TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 9:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 9, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Kevin Shattenkirk‘s name has been floating around the NHL’s trade rumor mill for sometime now, and according to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Blues came very close to dealing him six weeks ago only to have the trade fall apart when the new team and Shattenkirk were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

    It is not the first time that has happened over the past year.

    According to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Blues recently had a Shattenkirk trade in place with an Eastern Conference team that was believed to be the Tampa Bay Lightning. But when Shattenkirk turned down a long-term contract extension with the team that would have paid him $42 million over seven years, the trade fell apart.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Thursday night that the Arizona Coyotes also had permission earlier this season to speak to Shattenkirk about a new contract but were unable to reach a deal. A similar situation unfolded in the offseason when the Edmonton Oilers also tried to acquire the veteran defenseman.

    The Lightning would make a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Blues here because they have been in desperate need of another big-time defenseman to add to their blue line along with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. They also have several restricted free agents (and a pretty tight cap situation) to deal with this summer that could have been part of a return in a Shattenkirk trade.

    If the reported contract terms are correct, it’s a pretty good sign that Shattenkirk thinks he can get a massive payday on the open market this summer as a free agent. And he is probably not wrong. Since the start of the 2011-12 season Shattenkirk has been one of the most productive defensemen in the NHL, currently sitting 10th among all blue-liners in points (241) and posting dominant possession numbers.

    A $6 million per year cap hit would put him in the same salary range as Mike Green, Johnny Boychuk, and Erik Johnson.

    He outperforms all of them.

    Even though Shattenkirk is one of their top players, and the Blues seem on track to make the playoffs, the team still seems determined to move him before the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing over the summer.

    Blackhawks keep rolling with another dominant offensive performance

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    Another night, another hat trick, and another dominant offensive showing from the Chicago Blackhawks.

    On Thursday night it was Patrick Kane becoming the second Blackhawks forward in as many games to record a hat trick — following the three goal (and five point) effort Jonathan Toews had on Tuesday night — to help lead the Blackhawks to a 6-3 blowout win over the Arizona Coyotes.

    Along with Kane’s three goals, Toews picked up two more assists to continue his recent scoring surge that has seen him pick up 23 points in his past 15 games. Keep in mind he only had 21 points in the 37 games prior to that.

    Even more than Toews is the fact the entire Blackhawks team is clicking right now offensively.

    Their win on Thursday is their eighth in the past nine games and every one of those wins has been a display of total offensive dominance, scoring 40 goals during that stretch. That is more than four goals per game. Everybody is contributing to it at this point as seven players (Toews, Kane, Richard Panik, Artemi Panarin, Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Duncan Keith) all have at least eight points during this run.

    It’s a stretch that has helped the Blackhawks gain some ground on the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race, as they now sit three points back of the top spot.

    Just about the only bad news for the Blackhawks on Thursday night was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson leaving the game with what coach Joel Quenneville described as an upper body injury.

    The Blackhawks knew he wasn’t 100 percent going into the game and dressed a seventh defenseman, Michal Rozsival, as a precaution in case Hjalmarsson could not finish. After skating just four shifts in the first period — a first period that saw the two teams combine for six goals — he exited the game and did not return. Rozsival ended up playing a pretty significant role in the game scoring his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period for what ultimately prove to be the game-winner.

    Lundqvist stays hot as Rangers move ahead of Blue Jackets

    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers laughs as Kevin Klein #8 misses an attempt at a hattrick during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2017 in New York City.  The Rangers defeated the Avalanche 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Remember those few weeks earlier this season when Henrik Lundqvist was struggling, he was losing playing time to Antti Raanta, and everybody in the NHL was freaking out about the Rangers’ goaltending situation?

    At this point it seems like an eternity ago.

    Lundqvist has been on an absolute roll over the past month and has helped the Rangers finally gain some ground in the Metropolitan Division.

    After his 32 save performance — in the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout win in Toronto on Thursday night, the Rangers are now in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, moving ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who for the time being move down to the top Wild Card spot. The Rangers are now just two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a spot that would get them home ice in the first round.

    Leading the way lately during this recent surge has been Lundqvist as he plays his best hockey of the season. In his past 13 starts the Rangers own a 10-2-1 record, while Lundqvist is carrying a .938 save percentage.

    Even though the Rangers took huge steps over the summer to improve their forward depth — and it has absolutely paid off — it is still a team that is weak on the blue line and is only going to go as far as Lundqvist can carry it in the playoffs.

    But with the way he is playing right now, and with the way the Rangers can roll four solid lines and score (3.28 goals per game, fourth best in the NHL) this could be a potentially scary team come playoff time.

    Islanders shut out Canadiens for huge road win

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 18:  Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in action against the New Jersey Devils on February 18, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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    Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.

    Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.

    The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.

    With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.

    But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.

    With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.

    It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.